How to make temporary art

April 5 |

One thing really makes a place look lived-in: hanging art on the wall. It takes a commitment to put a nail into plaster to hang a picture, and seeing art you've committed to hanging immediately makes you feel in control of your space.

But you've got to find art that feels like you. I couldn't hang a Thomas Kinkade painting in my home and feel happy about it. It would NOT be considered an improvement to the space.

While you're waiting for art you love to come along, you can liven up a room with your own art — or your family's! Round up the necessities, and I'll meet you in the driveway for a seriously easy step-by-step guide to making art for your home you'll be proud of.

You'll need these supplies

Now, let's get started

1. Wipe down the cardboard — just make sure there's no dust or debris on it.

2. Lay down a layer of primer and/or background color. You may have to do several layers before the cardboard is covered adequately.


3. Brainstorm an icon to paint. I've been into crowns lately, but here are some other ideas: a bird, cats, molars, hands, frowns, mountains. It doesn't matter much what you choose to draw.

4. After the background dries, draw your icon. (Give it 5-25 minutes, usually, depending on color, temperature, application, and humidty.) All you'll make with the spray can is a simple blob of a shape, so don't fret if you can't recognize your icon.

5. After the foreground dries thoroughly, use the fat Sharpie to draw in defining lines. Add words if you like. The most important thing on this step is to use certain, broad strokes — don't feather in lines or your drawing will be sad. You don't have to stick to the lines of the colored blob — use it as a general guide to where your lines should go.

6. When it's dry, give it a home.

There's no "bad" place to hang art, so find a hunk of bare wall that looks the most right for the piece. Personally? I just nailed these to the wall. One brad in the center of the top of the cardboard, and I added two adhesive strips to the lower corners, too.

When you feel comfortable with cans and the layout of this project, move on to…

Advanced Mode

Variations to try on your art

  • Different substrates. Try found wood from dumpsters, glass, tile, canvas!, fabric.
  • Mix spray paint and other mediums. Wait until the paint dries, and then augment the spray with a marker. How well does glitter stick to tacky paint? What marks can you make in the paint before it dries?
  • Cut stencils. If you want to paint more complicated, detailed, or repetitive images, you might find stencils useful. You could paint an emblem on your Expedit, or pattern your cement floors. Start learning here.

So what are YOU going to do this weekend?

  1. I'm battling with nekkid walls right now. I have a few things that I can put up, but most of the apartment will be bare. Cardboard, here I come!

    1 agrees
  2. One of my colleagues' classic stories is how, some time in the 1970s, he was newly divorced and at a loss for decor, so he grabbed some plywood and some spray paint, with roughly the approach you've got here (Added twist: he was red-green colorblind.). Visitors admired the results and wanted to know what obscure rising artist he'd invested in, so I'd consider that a recommendation for the technique.

    1 agrees
  3. Love this idea! The spray paint looks great.
    Similar story to eilonwy- my friend was giving away her old concept paintings that are mostly random spray paint blobs and huge neon strokes. We hung them up, and people now ask where it's from, who did it, etc. We say we're supporting a local artist, and that she does commissions. ;)

    2 agree
  4. Aw yiss. I've got something like this (except smaller and stenciled) in my bathroom right now. I figured the cardboard would curl up and die in the humidity, but it's held up surprisingly well.

    0 agree

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